The United Center signage that greeted Carmelo Anthony featured the All-Star free agent in his preferred headband, an item typically banned by the Bulls.
The post-dinner conversation between Anthony, Hall of Famer Scottie Pippen and Bulls Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf, among others, flowed freely and lingered long into a spectacular Chicago night.
Yes, the Bulls did everything they could in their lengthy Tuesday pitch to Anthony, leaving no detail uncovered. If Anthony wants to know about schools for his son or real estate in the area, the Bulls are there to help.
But Wednesday brought events out of the Bulls' control — Anthony's Texas two-step to visit the Rockets and Mavericks. Past the tea-leaf reading of the split-day meetings, not to mention absurdities such as comparing the luxury vehicles the teams used to ferry Anthony around their towns, Thursday will bring a visit to the Lakers and the very persuasive Kobe Bryant.
Then, of course, a final check-in with the Knicks, where whispers continue that President Phil Jackson will ultimately extend a maximum or near-maximum salary offer to try to keep Anthony. After all, attracting stars with the Knicks' projected salary-cap space in 2015 will be an easier task with one already on the roster.
This is why the Bulls are headed to Los Angeles on Thursday to meet with Pau Gasol. Though many league executives view the Bulls as Anthony's only realistic option should he leave the Knicks, backup plans are needed. The Bulls' interest in Gasol had been reported, but the request for a face-to-face meeting developed unexpectedly Wednesday afternoon.
Gasol, 34, has drawn strong interest from the Thunder, Knicks, Mavericks and Heat as he prepares for a pay cut from the $19.3 million he made last season. He might represent the Bulls' most realistic option.
And though he has battled injuries, he remains a highly skilled offensive player whose defensive deficiencies could be absorbed by strong team concepts.
As for Anthony, the Bulls believe they connected with him on many levels. His agent, Leon Rose, and coach Tom Thibodeau have been friendly for years, far before either rose to prominence. The wives of Anthony and Pippen also are close, connecting again on a recent shoe promotional trip to Paris.
And of course there is basketball. Anthony has publicly praised Thibodeau, and their Tuesday discussion only increased their mutual respect, sources said. Bulls management soaked up Anthony's professionalism and basketball IQ throughout the nearly nine-hour day. Anthony, in turn, came away impressed by the Bulls' presentation, according to a separate source.
That presentation, by the way, featured only brief involvement from Derrick Rose, who spoke to Anthony for roughly 20 minutes after his previously scheduled workout and rehabilitation session at the United Center.
That sources have previously indicated Anthony wants the Bulls to keep Taj Gibson, included in Tuesday's pitch, is telling. Anthony watched the Knicks dismantle their roster to acquire him from the Nuggets. If he leaves the Knicks, he's doing so to chase championships, and Gibson's inclusion only aids that pursuit.
Though sources indicated the Bulls didn't discuss money much with Anthony, team officials remain confident they can make the financials work. This has been, after all, the organization's main focus and plan since the day management pulled the trigger on the Luol Deng trade to the Cavaliers in January.
Anthony reportedly won't belabor his decision after going through this free-agency process for his first time. Verbal commitments can be made before the moratorium ends July 10.
Until then, general manager Gar Forman will keep making his voluminous calls on contingency plans. Those need to remain as elastic as the headband the Bulls hope to see Anthony sporting at the United Center next season.
Twitter @kcjhoopCopyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun